The first true creative outlet I found in Riyadh was visiting fabric stores. It was just the thing I needed to get me out of the anxiety and discombobulation of such a huge move. My husband got me a sewing machine for Christmas. The next step, of course, was finding something to sew. We discovered a number of fabric shops at the somewhat charming, yet outdated and desolate Alkariya Mall in Olaya. It’s a cavernous, quartz-like, post-modern structure that seems to belong to the 80s. A pathetic, weeping, water feature on the ground level typifies the feeling of a place long past its best days. The two times I’ve been there, almost every shop was empty. The fabric shops, like any I’ve visited before, are places of promise. The air is thick with expectation and future glory, like at a performing arts high school. What’s better than the exhilaration of thinking, “Oh, I can use this to make (fill in the blank)”?
Good fabrics are not cheap. Decent fabrics are cheaper, but still no budgetary match for cheap goods in the age of dirt-cheap manufacturing. Same goes for yarn. So making something is still for me, and many people, a cherished act that leads to cherished possessions.
Currently, I possess little, comparatively speaking. I came to Riyadh with three suitcases. Within those bags, I made room for some of my favorite stationery, my washi tape (Japanese rice paper tape), and some nice ombre yarn I’d never used; a small collection of incidental things that I thought would make me feel like myself. In a nod to my morning ritual, I packed my red Le Creuset tea kettle (filling it with socks, under the advisement of my space-conscious husband) and my two favorite, handmade ceramic mugs. Regrettably, only one of the mugs made the trip intact. But one is better than none. It did make a difference and I only wish I packed more.
Sometimes I wish I was a person who did not find comfort in these things, but I find that I have a special relationship to materiality, if not materialism.
All of this goes to say, I’m making stuff. As a young adult I was a pretty prolific sewer. I was proudest of a double-breasted, plaid wool coat with a satin lining. I even matched up all the plaids perfectly! Well, that coat has since disappeared. A number of years after that project, I lost the pedal to my sewing machine during one of my moves and life intervened (as it does) once again.
So far, with my new machine and new fabrics, I’ve made some pillow covers and a doll, which is the first in a series as I try to perfect the pattern. I love having things I’ve made around the house. Hopefully, I can make some keepsakes that have more value than the things I’ve left behind.